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March 31, 2015

A Pilgrimage into Emptiness.

Anna Seva pic

“We have to stumble through so much dirt and humbug before we reach home. And we have no-one to guide us. Our only guide is our homesickness.” ~ Herman Hesse

At 18 I traveled by myself to India to look for God.

My head was shaved, my palms were sweaty and my small backpack only held the barest of necessities for life and travel.

I read Nisargadatta Maharaj’s I am that on the plane and watched the sand dunes and snow capped mountains pass by underneath me. I had no maps and no plans and a very limited budget for a stay of half a year.

I was on the first pilgrimage of my life and profoundly relieved about finally being on my way. I had been dreaming about India since I could remember. I had felt summoned to show up, pulled eastward by an irresistible tug in my navel.

After the plane finally touched down I had the urge to embrace the ground of the filthy floor in the Mumbai Airport. “When I grow up,” I had written in my journal, “I want to be a bum of God.” Alone, thirsty and exhausted, with no idea what to do, where to sleep and where to go, I was exactly where I needed to be. Completely lost in the Holy Land I had never felt so found.

I can’t recall ever not sensing the emptiness. Some days I would notice it less and it would quietly recede to the background, the sky behind the clouds. Other days the emptiness was so palpable it seemed to be humming, filling the room with its irrefutable presence. It was always there, between the lines, between my toes and between my thoughts. It was the first thing I was aware of in the morning and the last thing at night.

Nothingness can look like a whole lot of everything, depending on where you stand. For many years it felt like a hole inside my stomach—a specific, personal and painful thing. After a kick-ass yoga class I released into the void of savasana with sweaty delight and unquestionable trust. By the beds of the dying the threshold of absence felt familiar, quietly comforting, the scent of an old friend. On stage the emptiness danced through my body, a hollow vehicle of expression, revealing itself in the frequency beyond the gestures of shape.

My three decades on this planet have been a gradual and often reluctant love affair with this state of being. I’ve tried everything in my insistent and resourceful hands to fill it, kill it or will it away. It has motivated me, kept me on my toes and driven me utterly nuts. It has pushed me forward and out, beyond the known edges of myself and the familiar corners of this planet. It has taken me to all the four directions, on countless flights and through various landscapes, out of my mind and into my heart.

One thing I know for sure: The only way out is through. Taking a breath and facing every obstacle on your way is the only way forward. Spiritual by-passing doesn’t ultimately work, convincing as it may momentarily appear. No such a thing as premature renunciation really exists. Okay-dokaying your nonsense doesn’t serve a purpose for very long.

On this quest for truth I must open my arms to every aspect of the human being that I am—this mortal shell, this temple of God, this temporary form of creation. I must not turn away, I must not give up, I must not blink in the wrong moment. The gate beyond my identity is always available, in the here and now. Peeling back a layer of the untrue self lets a little more of the essence to shine through. Each step of the way a fraction of damage is undone, a sliver of uncluttered space recovered within the tissues of the soul. Shrugging off the weight of mistaken narratives and unnecessary suffering lends itself to a new kind of lightness, a quiet sort of radiance.

The mystery of being reveals itself in all its luminosity in the most mundane. The original impulse of life pulses under your skin in this very moment. Unveiling who you really are only asks for everything you have in return. You get to jump off the pedestal of your own life. You get to veer off the map of your patterns and navigate with softer eyes and easier elbows. You get to relish grappling and scrambling and not necessarily finding. You get to, because you are here, now, and you are not yet dead. You have the privilege of being alive, in all its harsh and temporary glory.

Welcome to a ride to the great beyond.

 

Relephant:

An Essential Quote about the Power of Kindness.

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Author: Anna Seva

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Courtesy of the Author, Featured Image: Flickr/Koen

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